[imc-canada] Jane Scharf Letter While In Prison

john at afterfostercare.com john at afterfostercare.com
Sat Oct 16 11:20:16 PDT 2004

>From the very lowest end of the carrot patch.   By Jane Scharf

The Homeless Action Strike protesters experienced an entire summer of 
bittersweet persecution, support and victory.

I am speaking to you this time with a strained voice form inside the Ottawa 
Detention Center.

Why did I get placed in jail for the past month without bail from a peaceful 
protest at Ottawa City Hall?  Well, the best answer I can give is that Mayor 
Bob Chiarelli must not want it to get out that we fought city hall and won. 
In other words he doesn’t want the public to know that peaceful protest is 
effective. He must have wanted our strike to appear as a defeat.

The strike started on July 1, 2004, with myself and a small rag tag group of 
homeless people, Rob Stevenson, Laura Doupe, Chris Keats and Rayn Campbell, 

 up a tent city at Ottawa City Hall.  We demanded reform of police 
mistreatment of panhandlers, homeless, and protestors, as well as humane 
solutions to homelessness and finally apologies to myself, the seven-year 
squatters and Heidi Rimke, for punishing our dissenting voices with bogus 
criminal charges.

Over the next 2 months the strike, which was dubbed Camp Where-Else by Rob, 
expanded to 11 tents, with approximately 20 persons and it continually 
gained credibility and momentum. More and more pressure was being put on the 
mayor for his violent treatment of panhandlers and homeless protesters.

I was arrested on July 18 and bail orders were placed on me prohibiting me 
from attending the protest area. The police moved in the next day and tried 
to shut down the strike unsuccessfully because all the homeless protestors 
stood their ground.

After police banished me young homeless protester Ryan McGrath picked up the 
political ball and reiterated the strike demands in writing to the mayor. 
The strike demands received endorsements form a broad range of union 
organisation, social activist groups and concerned citizens. Among the 
supporters were CUPW, three local chapters of CUPE, the Ottawa District 
Labour Council, the National Anti-Poverty Organisation, Ontario coalition 
against poverty, the Human Rights monument and a great deal of support came 
from the Ottawa-Outaouais Industrial Workers of the World who are 
facilitating our panhandlers union.

Strike demands:

v      Resolution by city council to refrain from ordering the police to 
brutalize protestors; stop the punishment and criminalization of dissent.

v      Resolution by city council to cease ordering the police and the state 
to arrest and prosecute panhandlers if they are not aggressive.

v      Resolution to find immediate and humane solutions to homelessness 

v     Public apology to Jane Scharf and the other Homeless Action Strike 
protesters, to Heidi Rimke and to all the members of the Seven Year Squat 
for the criminalization of our dissenting voices in direct violation of our 
constitutional right to freely express our political opinions on social 
problems without prosecution.

On August 16, 2004 the strikers called a rally in the form of an arrest the 
mayor event.

We plastered wanted posters all over town.  The poster warned that the 
renegade mayor is wanted for continually inciting police to violence 
against, panhandlers, homeless persons and protesters. The Citizen Posse 
that showed up outside the mayors office on August 16 stormed the building 
when security delivered them a message that the mayor would not meet with 
them because they had a dead issue. The protesters stormed in past security 
and demanded to meet the mayor to make their charges. They got the mayor to 
listen after playing a siren, blowing whiles and knocking on the locked 
doors for over an hour while demanding into a megaphone for the mayor to 
come out with his hands up.

Police told one of the homeless protesters Jesse McVicar in an aggressive 
intimidating tone “if you don’t leave you will be removed.”

Jesse leaned forwarded and firmly replied, “or we will be arrested.” A few 
minutes later the group was advised that the mayor would meet with them.

The mayor met with our negotiation team on August 24 which was comprised of 
3 members of the Homeless Action Strike, Proshanto Smith, Khalid Lasfar, 
Karen Dawe and also Dave Bleakney from CUPW and Sean McKenny of the Ottawa 
and District Labour.

We also had problems with interference of the protest by the police Major 
Events Liaison Team and by two city councillors. A few homeless protestors 
were given resources and money to try and get them to steer our demands for 
reform of city practices to that of demands for provincial reform.

During negotiations Councillor Doug Thompson tried to make a phoney deal 
with a few of the protestors who had been acting as police informants. This 
deal would have defeated the protest demands. The deal which we captured on 
tape was for city council to write a letter to the federal and provincial 
government outlining our concerns. This deal was blocked by Khalid Lasfar 
who interjected that the three individuals did not have the authority to 
make a deal for the entire group and this deal did not relate to our demands 
which was for reform of city policies and practices..

Ultimately this police and city interference was defeated when old school 
Eric Tweedie provided an non-violent intervention with the police informants 
who were being manipulated to try and defeat our strike.

Over the next two days  a 3 point peaceful resolution was reached by 4 o’clock 
on August 26. This resolution was brokered by Sean McKenny of the Ottawa and 
District Labour Council.  The resolution included:

  1.. An inquiry into the city’s mistreatment of panhandlers and homeless 
  2.. An inquiry into the city’s mistreatment of protestors.
  3.. Human resolution to homelessness, beginning with a comprehensive 
response to the needs to our homeless protesters.

Conclusion of the strike was agreed upon  for 4 o’clock on August 28.

At 5 p.m. Aug 26 2 of the protesters, Bill Boyd and his partner Teresa 
participated in their enhanced housing assessment at Catherine street 
welfare office accompanied by Sean McKenny thus making the beginning of the 
implementation of the peaceful deal.

I went home that evening with what I thought was a reasonable and peaceful 
resolution which had began to be implemented in good faith. My feelings of 
good faith did not last long as the mayor without warning or cause ordered 
the police to shut down the protest by force at 1:00 am August 27 in the 
rain.  Particularly disturbing about this police violence against homeless 
protestors was the desecration of their sign.

The sign read:

 "The Land on which this structure stands is part of the traditional 
territories of the Algonquin Anisnabe people whose current home is a reserve 
at Golden Lake. We have occupied these lands since time immemorial. It is 
fitting that this symbol should stand here as a reminder of the suffering of 
oppressed people everywhere and of our faith in the wisdom of the Great 
Spirit and the promise of life, dignity, freedom and equality for all living 
beings. We welcome all who come here to share in our hope."

Police slashing of the sigh with a machete we experienced as their violent 
disregard for the poor and the right to protest.  The desecrated sigh 
flapped in the wind as police continued to take down the homeless tent city 
by force.

I was arrested at the mayor’s office on August 27 when I went to complain 
against this violent attack on our protest after we have concluded a 
peaceful resolution which was in progress. I ended up in jail without bail 
because again this year police had used bogus charges and arbitrary bail 
orders to prohibit my attendance at the protest site.

The Justice of the Peace in my bail hearing ruled that I was no threat to 
safety or propriety whatsoever.  However, he still ordered that I be held in 
jail because he said if I was released people will loose confidence in the 

Prison conditions in here are deplorable due to lack of resources and staff. 
In spite of the stress and discomfort on the regular women dorms due to poor 
conditions and under staffing, I experienced great satisfaction in our 
complete solidarity and victories in making improvements in our conditions.

We sent 3 letters to the administration signed by all which resolved 90% of 
our issues. I am proud to be part of this group of women who are operating 
currently as a collective with no leader.

The only serious issue we were unable to resolve was the lack of resources 
available to the woman incarcerated here. Before Mike Harris and the 
Conservatives came to power each inmate received $10 a week for toiletries 
and incidental needs now they receiving nothing. The allocation of 
toiletries in here are grossly inadequate. This problem needs immediate 
public intervention.

We each struggle to maintain our rights and dignity while attending 
carefully to the rights and dignity of the others. And now these woman have 
all become my sisters in a special sense of the word.

I also feel great gratitude toward my beloved community for committing their 
time, energy and resources to getting me released and effectively 
represented in court.

I have two lawyers that have agreed to take my case Dominic Lamb and Clayton 
Ruby, as well as 3 law students organized by Sarah Dover of Toronto. An 
effective defence of my case will illuminate and hopefully irradiate the 
human rights and liberties violations inherent in the government’s use of 
the criminal justice system against peaceful protesters.

Particularly the unions and social activists are helping to organize and 
fund raise around my defence, as they understand the significance of 
successfully defending the right to protest without politicians using police 
to thwart our efforts. Right from a few weeks after police brought charges 
against me in order to shut down the Homeless Action Strike last year on 
instructions from the city the crown has been trying to cut a deal with me. 
They want me to plead guilty with a promise of an unconditional discharge. 
If I take this bait then the malfeasance of the police/city/crown will go 
unchallenged because I will be regarded as guilty of the charges they 
accused me of to shut down the strike.

The charge from last year was for erecting a business sign which was 
actually our protest sign. It said “Living at the Ritz under the Bridge.” 
After they charged me with obstruct police for not giving them the sign for 
evidence that I had erected a business sign they posted bail conditions that 
I could not go within 100 meters of the protest site.

This year I was arrested for obstruct police for trying to defend an 
innocent homeless young woman from arrest. Police refused to take any 
witness statements that could have cleared her. Rather they aggressively 
arrested her claiming that her lawyer could bring the witnesses to court to 
defend her.

After my arrest the police placed bail conditions on me that I could not go 
to city hall or the courthouse even though 1) my crime had nothing to do 
with city hall or the courthouse 2) I posed no threat to the public or 
property which must be the case for bail conditions curtailing liberty  3) 
such a restriction is a blatant violation of my right to protest not to 
mention basic liberty.

Two days later I was arrested for going to the courthouse to sign a court 
ordered a surety for the youth who was arrested.

And a few weeks later I was arrested when I went to the Homeless Action 
Strike site in response to an emergency.

And finally I was arrested for going to the mayors office to confront the 
mayor about the police raid on the camp at 1:00 am August 27 7 hours after 
our peaceful resolution had begun to be implemented and 35 hours before the 
voluntarily agreed upon closing of the camp.

The strikers successfully acquired an inquiry into the city’s mistreatment 
of panhandlers and homeless persons. However, the mayor is reneging on his 
commitment to investigate the mistreatment of the city’s protestors.

I hope to get out soon because I am badly in need of emotional comfort. We 
do the best we can to comfort each other in here but we are all vulnerable 
and hurting badly from this outrageous assault on our liberty and dignity. 
And telephone contact and a two twenty minute visits per week behind glass 
with phones does not cut it.

Postscript: I am now free after 38 days of incarceration with no bail 
conditions on my liberty. However, I still face the charge of mischief from 
last summer and the charge of obstruct police from this summer.

John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada

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